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Syracuse Football Preview: Offensive Line

The Syracuse offense prepares for a snap against Florida State.
The Syracuse offense prepares for a snap against Florida State.

As Syracuse football's season opener draws near, WAER Sports will release articles previewing position groups. A list of published articles can be found at the conclusion of this piece.

Syracuse football’s offensive line in 2023 is going to look a lot different from the 2022 edition. That’s natural, though, when three starters, the offensive line coach, and the offensive coordinator all leave the program.

The transition at OC should be the smoothest of them all. Quarterbacks coach Jason Beck was elevated to replace Robert Anae, who went to NC State. Beck followed Anae from BYU to UVA to SU, so it is safe to say that the former coordinator’s vision for a strong aerial attack will be preserved under his predecessor.

Former OL coach Mike Schmidt departed Syracuse for Mississippi State after two years of helping Sean Tucker and the rushing attack flourish. Steve Farmer was given Schmidt’s old job after impressing in his first season at Tulsa. Farmer’s line contributed to the rise of the Golden Hurricane passing offense from 53rd in the FBS in 2021 to 24th last year.

When it comes to lost personnel, there are some big shoes to fill. Carlos Vettorello and Dakota Davis started every game last season, and Matthew Bergeron started almost 40 games in an incredible Syracuse career that resulted in his selection by the Atlanta Falcons in the second round of the NFL Draft. Saying goodbye to that stability is not ideal, but there are still some solid pieces left on the line, along with some new faces, that warrant excitement from Syracuse fans.

Returning Starters

Christopher Bleich

Bleich is easily the most established player on this offensive line. The Redshirt Senior has started 19 games for the Orange, mostly at right guard, in two seasons since transferring from the University of Florida. Bleich only conceded two sacks across the 772 snaps he played in 2022. He will begin this year as the Orange's left guard.

Kalan Ellis

Ellis and Bleich will most likely make up the guard tandem for SU this year. Ellis started nine times at left guard for Syracuse last year, and probably would have started every game if not for a late-season injury. Even with all that game time, Ellis surrendered just one sack on nine total pressures in 2022 (per Pro Football Focus). It was announced, however, early this week that Ellis will not be part of the starting five to begin the season. Instead, he will be the backup at left guard.

Enrique Cruz Jr.

Cruz only started five games last season, but they were the last five on the schedule. In those appearances, The redshirt sophomore played at both tackle spots, which is a great benefit for a Syracuse roster with few proven options on the exterior o-line. Cruz was given the honor of starting in place of draft-bound Matthew Bergeron at LT for the Pinstripe Bowl, showing how quickly the young tackle has gained the trust of the coaching staff. He has been named the starting left tackle to begin this season.

Other Returners

Josh Ilaoa

The center spot was probably the most wide open position on this line. Many thought Ilaoa has the inside track on replacing Carlos Vettorello lost the competition to JUCO transfer J’Onre Reed and will begin the year as the backup center. Ilaoa appeared in every game in 2022, and started just once, but filled in gaps following injuries and was a mainstay on special teams. The junior has been a solid contributor at guard and center for three years.

Jakob Bradford

A former JUCO star, Bradford was an important backup for the Orange last year. The redshirt junior played eight times in 2022, including one start at guard for an injured Christopher Bleich. Bradford only allowed one sack in his 86 snaps on offense, but also put in work on special teams.

Joe Cruz

Joe Cruz, much like Enrique Cruz, is a young tackle that could factor into Syracuse’s long-term plans. The redshirt freshman cameoed in three games last year after coming in as a 3-star recruit (per 247 Sports).

Mark Petry

Petry saw limited game time (three appearances) in 2022 after missing all of 2021 with an injury. The redshirt junior played a lot of special teams back in 2020, adding to his usefulness as a reserve on offense.

Wes Hoeh

Hoeh took over for the injured Chris Elmore at fullback last year, starting three games and appearing in 10, but was brought in as an offensive lineman. The redshirt sophomore also did well on special teams in 2022, so he is a versatile depth piece, if nothing else.

Austyn Kauhi

Kauhi, a redshirt sophomore, has only played once in his SU career, as a substitute against Wake Forest in November. The Hawaii native has decent pedigree, arriving at Syracuse as a 3-star (according to 247 Sports) and two-time team captain at Kamehameha Kapalama High School.

Patrick Alberga

In three years with the Orange, Alberga has never found his way into a game. Now a redshirt sophomore, the Saranac Lake High School product has a chance to break into the lineup with all the recent departures.

Incoming Transfers

Joe More

Of these offensive line transfers, More is the most obvious candidate to play a lot of snaps right away and he will after being named the starting right guard. The former Richmond Spider started over 30 games at right tackle over four seasons and earned third-team All-CAA honors in 2022. Last year, More gave up just four sacks in pass protection as a key part of an offense that scored 31.3 points per game. More was upgraded from a 2-star player coming out of high school to a 3-star transfer by 247 Sports.

David Wohlabaugh Jr.

Wohlabaugh is the Orange’s starting right tackle to start the year. He comes to Syracuse from Kentucky with a family legacy. This Sophomore IOL’s father, David Wohlabaugh Sr., played at SU and was drafted to the NFL in 1995, where he carved out a nine-year career with the Patriots, Browns, and Rams. Wohlabaugh Jr. participated in 10 games at UK with one start over two seasons. The Stow, OH, native retained his 247 Sports 3-star status from high school through college.

J’Onre Reed

Reed is another JUCO pickup for the Orange, and another new player inserted into the starting lineup, with Reed winning the center competition in camp. The interior lineman prospect featured in four games for Hutchinson College, a dominant program that made it to the NJCAA Championship Game in 2022. Reed, also known as “Big General,” decided on Syracuse despite offers from Charlotte, New Mexico State, Georgia State, and more. The junior is 6’3” and weighs 317 pounds.

Lysander Moeolo

Moeolo comes to Syracuse from the Junior College ranks. The junior tackle played 16 games in two years at Navarro College in Corsicana, TX. Syracuse beat out offers from Colorado State, Hawaii, Georgia Southern, and others to win the services of the 6’6”, 330-pound lineman.

New Recruits

Jayden Bass

Bass is an incoming freshman tackle from Springfield, Massachusetts. The 3-star player (per 247 Sports) chose Syracuse amid offers from UConn, Arizona State, Temple, and more. Bass had quite the career at Springfield Central High School, where he was a team captain for 2 seasons. He was the conference offensive lineman of the year, made the all-state team, and was first team All-Western Massachusetts. Bass stands at 6’6” and weighs 300 pounds.

Trevion Mack

Mack is an interior offensive line prospect hailing from Moundsview, Minnesota. The number 12 graduating player from Minnesota (according to 247 Sports) was all-district and all-metro during his time at Irondale High School in Saint Paul, MN. Mack starts his freshman season at 6’6'' and 290 pounds.

2023 Syracuse Football Preview Articles
Coaching Staff
Special Teams
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
Running Backs
Defensive Line